Sunday, June 22, 2014

In Perfect Obedience Lies Freedom

Oh, damn, I really don't feel like writing much today.  But here's something: a blog post exhorting us not to be sex-positive jerks.  The writer seeks to critique a
very specific brand of sex-positivity I loathe, in which people seem bound and determined to press their sexuality on other people, insisting that sex is fantastic for everyone and everyone enjoys sex, creating a hypersexual, charged environment that refuses to acknowledge the complexities of human sexuality. Sex is awesome, under this framework, so everyone’s into it, and a ‘sex positive’ environment is not simply a place in which people can talk about sexuality without shame or judgement, but an environment in which sexuality is actively pushed on people. It’s all sexy, all the time.
I agree with that, as I do with the writer's argument that sexual freedom and sex-positivity include the freedom to say "no" to sex, whether at any given moment or throughout one's life, for one's own reasons and on one's own terms. But I want to point out that pressuring and compelling people to have sex (or not to) is completely compatible with a sex-negative position, indeed it's a traditional value.  That's why it proved so difficult to prohibit rape within marriage, for example, even in the supposedly liberal United States: because one of marriage's historic functions is to manage, restrict, and control erotic expression.  The traditional inability to distinguish between consensual and forced copulation is another facet of this attitude: copulation is either forbidden or mandatory, and freedom means freedom to conform and obey.  The idea that people might make their own choices (erotic or other) is still disturbing to many, as shown by the widespread idea that it can only be okay to be gay if we are forced by our genes to be that way.

People who try to impose a single pattern of sexual expression on others shouldn't be permitted to claim the mantle of sex-positivity.